Jury pool qualifying begins in trial of accused Antioch church shooter

Local News
Emanuel Samson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Potential jurors are being pulled for an upcoming trial of the man accused of opening fire inside an Antioch church last year, killing one person and wounding several others. 

Emanuel Samson’s trial is scheduled to begin Monday, according to Davidson County Judge Cheryl Blackburn’s secretary.   

No cameras were allowed inside Blackburn’s courtroom on the sixth floor of the Justice A. A. Birch Building, as dozens of potential jurors were questioned, based off a questionnaire they filled out Monday.   

Each of them was brought in one by one and questioned by the Judge based on their answers, asking details like what they knew about the case, if they knew anyone that has been a victim of the crime, and most importantly, if they could presume Samson is innocent before starting the trail.  

A few of them had confused details of the Waffle House shooting for the case, while others were excused for work or because they couldn’t see Samson as innocent.  

Samson appeared in the courtroom with near shoulder length dreadlocked hair, but this time he was dressed in a dark suit and navy tie without handcuffs or shackles.  

He sat with his head slightly down making eye contact most of the time with those being questioned.   

Judge Blackburn told those that stayed in the pool to come back Friday morning when attorneys will question the final jurors before they are picked. She is also expected to question more people Thursday.  

The trial is scheduled to begin Monday and the Judge said it will likely last two weeks. 

One Year Later: Where case stands against accused Antioch church shooter 

On Sept. 24, 2017, Metro police were called to Burnette Chapel Church of Christ around 11:15 a.m. for a report of multiple people shot.

Police said 25-year-old Emanuel Samson, who had once attended the church, arrived minutes before service let out and shot and killed Melanie Crow Smith, 39, in the parking lot.

Samson then went inside the church sanctuary and fired while more than 40 people were inside, investigators said.

“He was just shooting,” described Minerva Rosa, a member of the church. “He came right to the middle and shot more.”

Six people inside of the church were shot, including Minister Joey Spann.

“When I fell down to the side, my wife raised up and she called out my name,” Spann told News 2. “I said, ‘Honey, he’s killed me. I’m dying. I’m sorry.'”

In the midst of the shooting, 22-year-old church usher, Caleb Engle confronted Samson.

“I stood right up in front of him. His weapon was in his right hand. He aimed at the ground and then he aimed it at me,” Engle said. “I had stuck my left hand out and pushed it back onto him. The weapon discharged.”

Samson was hit by the bullet.

Engle was able to hold the suspect at the church until police arrived.

The month after the shooting, a Metro police detective testified that a note found in Samson’s SUV referenced the 2015 massacre at a black church in South Carolina; however, the detective also told the court that Samson claimed he did not give much thought to race or religion and that he heard voices and had visions.

In March, Samson was indicted on 43 charges including first-degree murder. He has since pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Samson remains jailed awaiting trial, which is scheduled for Monday, May 20th.

The District Attorney’s Office has said it will seek life in prison without parole for Samson.

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